It’s easy to get all misty eyed and nostalgic over the prospect of a return to the full-service agency model of old, especially when today’s complex communications challenges require a joined-up and integrated approach.
Increasingly, the questions clients are asking now are far broader than traditional media briefs and are more about delivering impact to their bottom line: everything from how to measure the direct impact of comms on footfall, to how to unlock the value potential of CRM data or change public perceptions and increase recruitment levels.
Answering these questions requires multiple media owners, as well as tech and agency partners sitting around the table together. And I mean that in the physical sense, not just on a conference call or copied in on an email.
Increasingly, the questions clients are asking now are far broader than traditional media briefs and are more about delivering impact to their bottom line.
While I wouldn’t recommend going entirely back to the future, I do think we need a change of mindset – a return to full-service behaviour.
This behaviour used to exist in previous decades, particularly between media owners and agencies, but has, sadly, become less commonplace.
The days of media reps visiting agencies have become a distant memory for many – presumably a victim of short-sighted time-and-motion studies or corporate efficiencies – but from these meetings, many of the best collaborative ideas were created.
Much like "integration", the word "collaboration" has become such a familiar one within an agency’s creds, it has lost much of its real meaning.
Genuine collaboration comes from getting people together, face-to-face, and sharing information that might create a spark of inspiration.
Bringing people together in a physical space not only generates better work, it also helps people network and share experiences that may be relevant to something they are working on.
In some ways, technology has got in the way. Emails and video conferencing have their place and can be valuable tools when working on international business. But, in truth, can there really have been that many eureka moments generated from replying to a comment in an email chain?
In order to ignite the creative spark, it has become apparent that we need to spend more time together.
Can there really have been that many eureka moments generated from replying to a comment in an email chain?
That is why we have invested time, space and money on encouraging media partners to spend time at MEC – to share with us their thinking and for us to let them know about how they can help our clients’ businesses. In fact, we have dedicated a third of the space in our headquarters to a Partner Centre, where media partners are positively welcomed to work with our teams whenever they want.
Business, and to a certain extent society, has become increasingly driven by automation, algorithms and bots, so the importance of human interaction has never been greater.
New economy companies, such as Facebook and Google, have organised themselves in this way for some time. The first floor of Amazon’s new campus in Seattle is mostly "co-working" space and Samsung have created vast communal areas designed to encourage engineers and sales people to spend time together, or "collide" as they call it.
Encouraging corridor conversations and chance meetings are increasingly seen as drivers of decisions, insights and innovations.
Many agencies and media companies now operate a hot desking policy (one that would have been unthinkable in the 80s), where barriers have been torn down stripping bare the body corporate and allowing the sharing of best ideas.
Applying this philosophy to our partners and our clients – and providing them with the time and the space where they, too, can participate in the sharing of the best ideas – will also lead to us doing better work and producing more effective collaboration. Ultimately, everyone – client agency, media owner and, most importantly, customer – emerges a winner.
Jason Dormieux is the chief executive officer of MEC UK.